As time expired at the SAP Center, the St. Louis Blues swarmed their goaltender in a congratulatory melee, while the San Jose Sharks found themselves in a familiar place: on the losing end of a Game 2.
The Sharks, who have gone winless in their three attempts, are no stranger to losing in Game 2 this postseason. Now, please don’t ask why. No one quite knows the reason. It’s a peculiar trend, especially considering that in last year’s playoffs, San Jose won both of their Game 2 contests and that they’ve won all three Game 1s so far.
Tonight’s game, however, was less of a mystery; playing a sixth of the game short-handed and having a goaltender put up a .840 save percentage is rarely a recipe for victory. Even if a penalty (or two) were suspect, and the goalie was screened on one of the goals against, it’s difficult to overcome such performances.
Jaden Schwartz was given far too much open ice before picking the corner on Martin Jones, while Vince Dunn directed a rocket into the net, past a beautifully set screen. The Sharks finding themselves down 2-0 wasn’t on the shoulders of any particular player, and as a team, they looked visibly tired.
Sharks forward (and playoff goal-scoring leader) Logan Couture, however, bit his thumb at this, and single-handedly tied the game in a wild two minute span. His first goal came on a short-handed breakaway, but it’s the fact that he created it for himself on a high hockey-IQ defensive play that makes it just so Logan Couture. That’s not to take away from the gorgeous deke that enabled him to beat rookie phenom Jordan Binnington, but that’s a harder picture to paint. Just go watch it, seriously.
Couture’s second goal came on a pretty feed from Timo Meier, who’s having a phenomenal playoff in his own right, and tied the game. In this moment, it felt as though the Blues would be crushed by the wave on intensity resonating throughout the arena; the momentum had swung, and it had swung hard.
The Sharks, however, didn’t score again.
Instead, Blues defenseman and incredibly unlikely hero Robert Bortuzzo delivered the spirit crushing goal: a very stoppable backhand shot that sailed past Martin Jones and gave the Blues a 3-2 lead — one that they’d never relinquish. The crowd and the bench, in unison, deflated. The Sharks pushed in the third, but failed to capitalize on special teams, and eventually surrendered a fourth goal.
Hockey is weird. Playoff hockey is weirder. While the Sharks and their fans have every right to be upset, with a winnable game slipping through their fingers, they should remain optimistic about their team’s chances.
Especially since the Sharks are undefeated in series in which they lose Game 2 this year.
20:00: The puck has been dropped, and we’re live in San Jose!
17:26: Jaden Schwartz opens the scoring for St. Louis. He picks the corner on Martin Jones off a nice feed from Vladimir Tarasenko. This one shouldn’t be held against Jones, just a great shot from one of the Blues’ bright spots this post-season.
15:56: More adversity early for San Jose; Tomas Hertl takes a tripping penalty, and the Blues head to the power play. Good opportunity for the Sharks to regain some momentum on a penalty kill.
15:44: A shorthanded two-on-one breakout eats some penalty time, but ends with a shot from Barclay Goodrow being denied by Jordan Binnington. Alex Pietrangelo broke up the play with an excellent diving effort.
13:56: The Sharks come up with a penalty kill early, but the Blues’ power play showed flashes of real danger.
13:26: Jay Bouwmeester heads to the penalty box after tripping up Joe Pavelski. Nice break here for the Sharks, as the Blues have looked sharper early.
11:26: Not the power play we saw last game; San Jose struggling to connect passes, win races. Perhaps feeling the effects of last game’s physical play?
11:23: As the power play expires, Marc-Edouard Vlasic gets the Sharks’ best chance of the night: a cross-crease feed that he one-timed high on Binnington. No dice, but the crowd was appreciative.
8:53: The Nyquist-Couture-Meier line continues to wreak havoc in the offensive zone. Nothing incredibly dangerous on this shift, but the ice is tilted when they’re out there.
6:44: The Sharks have been dominant the last minute and a half, and the crowd is back into it. All started with a great shift from the fourth line; Joonas Donskoi’s return has clearly energized them the last few games.
4:14: Oskar Sundqvist feels a stick on his shin pad, falls, and Evander Kane is called for the trip. Blues to the power play, their second of the night.
2:14: The Sharks look solid shorthanded, and get the kill.
END FIRST: Blues 1, Sharks 0
20:00: Second period action, underway!
17:44: Binnington makes a great save on Kevin Labanc, alone on his (Binnington’s) right side! To no one’s surprise, Binnington has brought his A-game tonight.
15:44: St. Louis takes a two to zero lead on Vince Dunn’s shot from the blue line.
15:58: Bad to worse. Marcus Sorensen goes to the penalty box on a baffling bad interference call. Sorensen, while trying to avoid contact, grazes Joel Edmundson, and the Sharks will be short handed again.
15:45: Logan Couture breaks up the play, breaks out of the zone, and scores a gorgeous short handed breakaway goal. Incredible individual effort by the future captain.
13:58: The Sharks kill the penalty, and you have to think the momentum will swing a little here.
13:46: Logan Couture is a man possessed! Again, he creates his own breakaway, and cashes in on Binnington’s five-hole! Two goals in two minutes from Couture, and the game is tied!
6:24: Colton Parayko drills a shot on net, it’s redirected, and Patrick Maroon gets a beautiful chance on the rebound. Martin Jones shuts it down.
6:05: Big scrum behind the Sharks net following the play. Big Brenden Dillon, predictably, in the mix.
3:26: Robert Bortuzzo beats Joe Thornton to the net and rips a backhand shot past Martin Jones. 3-2 St. Louis. Not a good goal against for Martin Jones.
:19: Sharks clear the puck over the corner of the glass in the defensive zone, and the Blues go on their fourth power play of the game.
END SECOND: Blues 3, Sharks 2
20:00: The third period is officially underway! The Blues have 1:32 left on the power play to start the period.
18:28: San Jose comes up with the penalty kill. Plenty of time left for a tying goal.
14:12: Jones comes up with three consecutive saves as the Blues pressure.
12:40: Tomas Hertl can’t get a shot off on a breakaway. He must not have seen the back-checker coming as he skated in.
11:10: Kevin Labanc gets the first Sharks shot of the period, as Binnington makes an easy save.
9:23: Sharks to the power play, as Robert Thomas goes to the box. Hooking is the call. While it isn’t a make-or-break moment, by any means, it seems like the Sharks will need to start converting more on the power play if they want to move on.
7:18: Joe Thornton trips Sundqvist, and the Blues head to their fifth power play of the game. Thornton has had a rough night, he looks tired out there.
5:30: Tomas Hertl immediately heads to the locker room after taking a puck to what looks like the cheek. Obviously, has to hurt, but the real damage has been done to the Sharks’ chances of winning this game. Hertl has been their second most valuable forward this post-season.
3:08: Oskar Sundqvist gets one past Martin Jones, and it’s 4-2 Blues. Jones... Hasn’t been great tonight.
:04.6: The extra skater isn’t enough, and the Sharks will drop the second game of the series 4-2.
FINAL: Blues 4, Sharks 2
After a solid dismantling of the St. Louis Blues in Game 1, the San Jose Sharks face something they’ve yet to conquer this postseason: Game 2. Both the Vegas Golden Knights and the Colorado Avalanche were able to even out their series against the Sharks early. If the Sharks want to keep their momentum going, winning Game 2 could help to break that cycle and would send them to St. Louis with a commanding 2-0 series lead.
The physicality from the Blues last game left the Sharks with plenty of chances. If the Blues plan to continue chasing down the players who have the puck, rather than gaining possession themselves, this series could be short. For the Sharks, they’ll need to focus on their own game, just as in Game 1, and not get distracted by the Blues’ attempts to plow them over.
With a winning roster in place from Game 1 (and Game 7 of the previous series), there are no changes for the Sharks tonight. No word yet on if the Blues plan to shake things up.
Expected scratches: Micheal Haley, Tim Heed, Lukas Radil, Dylan Gambrell
Blues (via NHL.com)
Jaden Schwartz — Brayden Schenn — Vladimir Tarasenko
Sammy Blais — Ryan O’Reilly — David Perron
Patrick Maroon — Tyler Bozak — Robert Thomas
Ivan Barbashev — Oskar Sundqvist — Alexander Steen
Joel Edmundson — Alex Pietrangelo
Jay Bouwmeester — Colton Parayko
Vince Dunn — Robert Bortuzzo
Expected scratches: Robby Fabbri, Zach Sanford, Chris Thorburn, Michael Del Zotto, Jared Coreau
Injured: Carl Gunnarsson (lower body)
Where to Watch
Puck drop is at 6 p.m. PT/9 p.m. ET from SAP Center and will be broadcast on NBC in the United States, CBC and Sportsnet in Canada and TVA Sports en Francais in Quebec. The radio call will be available on 98.5 KFOX in the Bay Area and through the Sharks app.